Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remember To Back Up Your Computer!

Everyone and their brother will be posting Thanksgiving related blogs today, but I have something different to put forth:  the importance of backing up your computer!

Husband and I have just been through the ringer trying to save our computer from obliteration after a nasty malware virus infected it.  It was quite the odyssey!

First we took it to our trusty computer guru who has worked on it before, and assumed he'd just work his normal techie voodoo and all would be well in a day or so.  He assumed so, too.  But when the voodoo didn't work, he tried something else.  Then something else.  Then something else.  Then.....well, you get the idea.  I don't understand enough about how computers work to be able to explain what happened, but nothing he tried worked and he ended up having to store all of our personal files to an external hard drive, then wiping our computer clean and reinstalling Windows.  

Windows XP:  soon to be obsolete!

All of this took 6 days, during which I had his phone number memorized as I was constantly calling him for updates while I pulled my hair out, and he added me to his stalker list and contemplated going into a witness protection program to avoid me.

Six days of which I fretted and moaned and cried and dreaded the possibility that we were going to lose everything on the computer.  I mean, think about it.  In this day and age, who doesn't have their entire life stored on their computer?  Photos.  Financial records.  Saved emails, scanned legal papers, documents created for stories, schoolwork assignments, diaries, downloaded music (legally, of course!).....everything!  Most worrisome for me were the photos.  Documents and the like can be recreated, music can be re-purchased and re-ripped, but  I mean it's not like you can resurrect the dead and restage a photo, or go back in time and retake it, right?

Digital photos are great, but no automatic hard copy or negatives to keep!

Finally, finally, all was ok and our little outdated and oh-so-ancient [insert sarcastic voice here] computer was back at home, safe and sound yesterday  (I say that because it was hinted numerous times that we should think about upgrading to a new computer.  I hate forced obsolescence!).  The computer guru dropped it off at our house and said he never wanted to see us again and that he was changing his phone number.  Not really, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had.  

Anyway, now that the ordeal is over, I realized that I never want to be put in that position again....that full-of-dread, helpless feeling that your most vital and precious items stored on the computer could just be wiped out in the blink of an eye.  Poof.  Gone.  I learned my lesson:  back up, back up, back up!  Oh, and invest in a good antivirus protection software - don't rely on the free stuff, which is what we had been doing.  But that goes without saying.  Back up, back up, back up!

I'll be spending my Thanksgiving vacation methodically going through files and saving them to outside sources:  flash drives, discs, and online photo storage sites.  Hard copies of your most important documents and photos inside a bank safety deposit box is a good idea too.  Of course nothing is infallible, that's why it's important to back up to multiple sources so in case one fails, you still have your stuff.  You could lose your computer due to theft, fire, even a bad coffee spill too, viruses aren't the only culprit!

Do you have back up sources for your most precious documents?  Or is it on your to-do list?

Oh, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homemade English Muffins

I made English muffins today!

I used this recipe from the Tasty Kitchen.  They were super easy, but very time consuming.  Most of the waiting comes from the rise time, and the time to cook in the skillet (10 minutes per side, so I had two skillets going at the same time so I could get more done at once).

I can't wait to try one with my breakfast tomorrow, where I'll make my homemade version of a sausage egg muffin everyone loves from the restaurant beginning with "Mc".  One more food item from the grocery store that I no longer have to buy, now that I know how to make my own, AND know everything that's gone into it.  

It's becoming increasingly important to me to learn how to make as many things from scratch as possible.  Not only is it cheaper (in most cases), but healthier to boot.  Yes, it's more time consuming and requires more planning, but I don't mind.  It's worth it, in my opinion.  

What have you made homemade lately?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nostalgic For A Time That Didn't Exist

One of my favorite songs on my Frank Sinatra V-Discs set is "Homesick, That's All."

Here is the YouTube link to the song (it won't let me embed it), and following are the lyrics:

I miss the thrill of grammar school romances
I miss the junior prom and graduation dances
The gossip in assembly hall
I'm homesick, that's all

I miss the gang that hangs around at Miller's
Devouring chocolate sodas, with those whipped cream fillers
The girl I promised I would call
I'm homesick, that's all

I miss the midnight services on Christmas Eve
And the joy when Christmas morning came
I miss the scramble for the wishbone every Sunday
And the big Thanksgiving football game

I miss the times I had to set the table
I miss the rolls my mother made when she was able
The fragrant bonfires in the fall
I'm homesick, that's all

I miss the times I had to set the table
I miss the rolls my mother made when she was able
The fragrant bonfires in the fall
I'm homesick, that's all

This song has such a melancholy pull on my heartstrings.  It makes me long for a time that no longer exists....not only my childhood, but of a simpler, more innocent time.  

But did it really exist?  We tend so much to look at the past through rose colored glasses and only see the good things of a particular era.  Or, to see an era as we experienced it ourselves, unexposed to the horrors of the world around us.  

For example, the 1970's was a time of major political, cultrual, and economic upheaval.....for the rest of the world.  But for me, my biggest worries were figuring out what to bring to show and tell at school, and waking up early enough on Saturday mornings to watch my favorite cartoons.  I look back at that period with warm nostalgia about those cartoons, the toys I played with, the family gatherings I went to, and businesses around town that existed back then but are gone now.   I was never exposed to the harsh realities of the world around me.

I actually had this album!

Certainly for an adult who lived through those times and remember gas lines round the block, the continuing Vietnam War, the Nixon scandal, and shocking behavior from the youth as social conventions gave way would remember that era in a different light.

Not having lived through the Golden Era (1925-1955) I have to learn about it second hand from books, video, and first hand accounts from my parents.  Now, my parents each had very different experiences growing up.  My Mom was born in 1930 to an upper-middle class family and had a nanny.  She remembers driving with her dad in their big black car and seeing people standing in bread lines on the street, and wondering why they were there.  The Great Depression had hardly any effect on her life.

My Dad, however, was born in 1931 to a dirt-poor farming family struggling to eke out an existence in dust-bowl stricken Colorado.  The 13th child, he knew bad times, and knew firsthand how harsh life could be.

While Mom has happy, fond memories of that period, my Dad doesn't like to remember them at all.  While my Mom learned afterwards the bad parts of that era, because they didn't effect her directly, she still sees it all through "rose colored glasses" just like the way I view the 70's.  

Of course every era has it's good parts and bad parts, that's just life.  There always have been and always will be the bad with the good, and I think it's important, when looking at the past, to take into account both sides.  One shouldn't whitewash the past and say only good things happened; on the flip side one shouldn't condemn an entire era solely for the bad parts and discount the good.  

So when I get to feeling nostalgic for the past - a past I never lived through, such as in this song - I guess what I'm really nostalgic for is the idea of an idyllic past.  It's more pleasant to think of the past as how it's depicted in It's A Wonderful Life or Leave It To Beaver.  No one wants to think about segregation, racism, gender inequality, child abuse that was kept hush-hush because one doesn't air the family's dirty laundry.  It's easier to pretend that life was shiny-happy and to believe that our authority figures were all honest and could be trusted and that the cure to all woes was a slice of mom's apple pie.

I truly wish such a time existed.  That's what I'm nostalgic for.  A world where there weren't any troubles, everyone no matter their race, ethnicity and gender got along, no one told lies, and everyone helped their fellow man.  

It could be great, wouldn't it?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Yard

As you can see, I've been adding some pics to my page to spruce things up.  Ginger photos are back!  (why did I ever get rid of them!?) Ginger Rogers that is, not my late doggie.  And before you ask, no, we did not name her specifically after Ms. Rogers....the name "Ginger" just seemed to fit her personality so well!

Anyhoo, I thought I would share some photos of our yard.  Why?  I already have spring planting on the brain!

The front of our house

See, this past year, I had held such high hopes for growing my own food.  I had visions of my own little urban homestead dancing in my brain, and of learning how to can.

The problem is, while we do have a rather large yard for a city dwelling, it's too shady.  We simply have too many big trees in our yard to be able to do much veggie growing.  We do have a couple of small places in the yard that do get at least 5-6 hours of sunlight a day (the bare minimum for most veggies), but I just didn't have my "poop in a group" (so my former boss liked to say) enough to take advantage of it.  I did attempt a couple of tomato plants in one of them, but thanks to blight and weird weather I didn't get squat out of them.

Our front steps and "flower patch", one of the few spots that gets lots of sunlight.  Perfect for container gardening!

Not to be defeated, I am determined that I will produce something next year!  I have been researching raised bed and container gardening, as well as how to amend the soil with compost.  Because I have to take as much advantage of what sunlight I can in the yard, raised beds make the most sense.

Oh yes, and did I mention that our backyard - the area with the most space - is on the north side of the house!  Another blow to maximum sunlight.

Our back yard.  Because most of the big trees are on the south side, it's shady most of the day.  Darn tree shadows.

Looking towards the back northeast corner of the yard, which is one part that does get lots of sunlight in the summer.  Note Sasha at the fence, looking longingly at squirrels on the other side.  Ignore the pathetic remains of my failed tomato plants.

And here is the northwest corner of the backyard.  This space does get kinda ok sunlight, until early afternoon hits.

Oh yes, did I mention that the tree in that northwest corner is a black walnut tree?  Another blow!  Because of a toxin they emit, not many plants will thrive around these trees.  The squirrels love'em, though.

This is our neighbor's cat, Foo.  He likes to hang out on our porch columns and look in our windows (I took the pic looking through the window, which is why it's kinda fuzzy).  This has nothing to do with the post, but he's so cute I couldn't resist.  Wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, I wanted to show what the yard looks like now, to be able to compare it to what it will look like next spring.  I am determined to find ways to work around my gardening obstacles.  I will, I will, I will! 

Did you garden this year?  How did it turn out?